Porscha McRobbie is an everyday athlete who has overcome twenty years of serious gastrointestinal issues just by ditching dairy. A lifelong fitness enthusiast, Porscha was weary of giving up dairy due to the propaganda that surrounds it—she was afraid she’d lose tone or run into issues obtaining enough calcium. However, after discovering Switch4Good and watching “The Game Changers,” she made the leap and has never felt better. For anyone struggling with IBS, or any other gastrointestinal disease, Porsha’s story can be life-changing. We interviewed her so she could share her experience and help others live a healthier, happier life.
Q: Describe your history with sport and athletics. What have you tried, and what are you doing now?
A: While I dabbled in school sports (soccer, basketball, volleyball) in my youth, my absolute love and passion up to age 16 was my horse and competitive equestrian events. My priorities changed near the end of high school, and I decided to give that up in favor of running cross country. Although I didn’t last beyond one season, recreational running became a staple of my life all throughout my college and graduate school years.
Around 2009, I discovered yoga. At first I loved it because it made my running feel better, but it soon developed into an intense study lasting many years. The physical challenge—along with the mental and emotional grounding it provides—continues to inspire and refocus me. In the early mornings, there’s no place I’d rather be than on my mat, and I continue a nearly daily practice. In 2011, I discovered the world of dance, starting with Argentine Tango and later dabbling in ballet (starting at age 40!). I was insanely passionate about learning to express myself through movement, and spent more than seven years reahearsing, performing, and teaching.
In 2018, my life changed forever when my boyfriend put me under a barbell and taught me about squats and bench presses. I currently work with an online coach and lift weights four days per week. On my off days, I still enjoy yoga, running, hiking, and pretty much anything outdoors.
Q: When and why did you decide to go vegetarian?
A: At age 18, my parents slaughtered our cow, and once I saw the meat wrapped up in the freezer, I never ate beef again. I couldn’t understand how the cow was much different than my beloved horse, and felt a profound sense of guilt for not making the connection earlier. I had always been an animal lover, but I had a total disconnect between the animals I loved so much and the food going down my throat. After that, fish got phased out, but I continued to eat dairy and eggs for another 25+ years—until this year, at 45 years old.
Q: Why did you decide to keep dairy in your diet at this point?
A: I bought into the idea of dairy being a requirement for calcium, bone health, and preventing osteoporosis. Also, when I discovered bodybuilding, counting macros, and keeping close track of what I was consuming, I found greek yogurt and string cheese to be easy protein sources. I was afraid giving them up would prevent me from building muscle. I hadn’t yet discovered the world of vegan and dairy-free athletes!
Q: Describe the health issues you struggled with prior to going dairy-free. What did the doctors say or think it was?
A: From about age 22-45, I struggled with frequent bouts of nausea, bloating, and general GI discomfort. I continually tried to research what it was—I tried to link the illness to specific foods—but I always came up empty-handed. I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome in 1998, and I spent the years between 2002 and 2010 seeing GI specialists because my symptoms were so severe. Despite endless testing, no definitive conclusions were ever reached. I’m angry that none of my doctors brought up the idea that I could be lactose intolerant.
Q: How did you discover that a dairy-free diet might help with these health issues?
A: I discovered “The Game Changers” and the Switch4Good podcast. I clearly remember the episode with Dr. Angie Sadeghi on how to heal your gut with plant-based foods. I was blown away by her discussion of the gut microbiome and how it could actually be changed by the foods we eat.
Q: What ultimately motivated you to make the switch?
A: Through researching information and links from Switch4Good, I learned some things that changed everything. First off was learning more about lactose intolerance–I didn’t know it could start later in life and that it could be of varying degrees. I would eat dairy and not get immediately sick, so I automatically ruled that out long ago (and continued to eat the very thing that was poisoning me all along, ugh!). I also learned about dairy and bodybuilding propaganda regarding nutrients, protein intake, and calcium. I started learning about other vegan athletes and their diets and realized that dairy was totally unnecessary for health or athletic performance.
Q: How do you feel after making the switch?
A: Incredible! I’m experiencing normal digestion for the first time in my life. I never knew just how sick I was unil I finally experienced “normal.” I eat healthy foods and feel satiated but not bloated and half-sick constantly. I really believed that I just needed to suck it up and understand that living with the illness was something that I’d likely have to do the rest of my life. Making the switch has changed my life! I feel like I can finally thrive for the first time.
Q: Was it difficult to transition? What dairy-based foods were you used to eating, and what did you replace them with?
A: No, it wasn’t difficult. My main staples were green yogurt, low-fat string cheese, egg whites, and whey protein. I first cut just yogurt and cheese, and immediately noticed the bloating was gone—it’s still mind-blowing to me. A few weeks later I cut out the egg whites and replaced them with JUST Egg, as suggested by Dotsie, which I love. About two weeks after that cut out the whey protein and went fully vegan.
Q: Have you discovered any new favorite dairy-free products or recipes?
A: I listen to Dr. Greger a lot (How Not to Die, podcasts, videos, etcetera), and I am constantly trying to make everything I eat even healthier by eating a wider variety of foods and adding more herbs and spices.
Q: Have others noticed your transition, or are they aware that you feel better? Are they intrigued by your dairy-free solution?
A: My boyfriend, definitely. He’s listened to me complain about feeling bloated and sick for almost 2 years, but it abruptly stopped after quitting dairy. I’m sleeping better, and I am generally happier in everything I do. My family can’t believe I finally solved my stomach puzzle, but they are heavy meat and processed food eaters, so nothing really has changed for them…yet!
Q: What would you say to someone who might be struggling with undiagnosed GI issues, but might be hesitant to give up dairy?
A: Don’t be afraid to experiment, and don’t fall into the trap of all-or-nothing thinking. Try one thing at a time, and try to really be in tune with how your body feels after eating. Also try to think of food as nutrients and fuel rather than reverting to old habits. Once you find what works, it will inevitably change your life!